Creativity and Critique: Gap Analysis of Support for Critical Research on Big Data

44 Pages Posted: 14 Aug 2016 Last revised: 10 Nov 2016

Philip N. Howard

University of Washington - Department of Communication; University of Washington - Henry. M. Jackson School of International Studies; University of Washington - The Information School; University of Oxford - Oxford Internet Institute; University of Oxford - Oxford Internet Institute

Samantha Shorey

University of Washington - Department of Communication

Samuel Woolley

University of Washington - Department of Communication

Mengjun Guo

University of Washington - Department of Communication

Date Written: July 15, 2016

Abstract

We define big data as large amounts of information, collected about many people, over multiple devices. We define critical big data research as efforts to demonstrate how flaws — ethical or methodological — in the collection and use and of big have implications for social inequality. There are many critical and creative big data research endeavors around the world. Here we present an annotated catalog of projects that: are both critical and creative in their analysis of big data; have a distinct Principal Investigator (PI) or clear team; and, are producing an identifiable body of public essays, original research, or civic engagement projects. We have catalogued these endeavors with as much descriptive information as possible, and organized projects by the domains of big data critique and creativity in which they are having an impact. We identify some 35 distinct projects, and several dozen individual researchers, artists and civic leaders, operating in 16 domains of inquiry. We recommend expanding critical and creative work in several domains: expanding work in China; supporting policy initiatives in Latin America’s young democracies; expanding work on algorithmic manipulation originating in authoritarian countries; identifying best practices for how public agencies in the United States should develop big data initiatives. We recommend that the next stage of support for these lines of inquiry is to help publicize the output of these projects, many of which are of interest to a handful of specialists but should be made accessible to policy makers, journalists, and the interested public.

Keywords: critical big data research, algorithms, automation, bots, big data, literature review

Suggested Citation

Howard, Philip N. and Shorey, Samantha and Woolley, Samuel and Guo, Mengjun, Creativity and Critique: Gap Analysis of Support for Critical Research on Big Data (July 15, 2016). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2822389 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2822389

Philip N. Howard (Contact Author)

University of Washington - Department of Communication ( email )

Seattle, WA 98195
United States
2062216532 (Phone)

HOME PAGE: http://www.philhoward.org

University of Washington - Henry. M. Jackson School of International Studies ( email )

Seattle, WA
United States

University of Washington - The Information School ( email )

Box 353350
Seattle, WA 98195
United States

University of Oxford - Oxford Internet Institute ( email )

1 St. Giles
University of Oxford
Oxford OX1 3PG Oxfordshire, Oxfordshire OX1 3JS
United Kingdom

University of Oxford - Oxford Internet Institute ( email )

1 St. Giles
University of Oxford
Oxford OX1 3PG Oxfordshire, Oxfordshire OX1 3JS
United Kingdom

Samantha Shorey

University of Washington - Department of Communication ( email )

102 Communications
Box 353740
Seattle, WA 98195
United States

Samuel Woolley

University of Washington - Department of Communication ( email )

102 Communications
Box 353740
Seattle, WA 98195
United States

Mengjun Guo

University of Washington - Department of Communication ( email )

102 Communications
Box 353740
Seattle, WA 98195
United States

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